“I was blown away when they sent me the letter. I’m humbled and just amazed that people have recognised me like this. I just do what I do – I don’t do it for recognition.”
Ian has been heavily involved in both CFA and St John Ambulance for over four decades, and began volunteering after witnessing a horrific car accident that involved children.
“Everyone was looking at each other and no one knew what to do. It was a major thing, seeing these people in need – I didn’t want to be in a position like that ever again,” Ian said.
The incident prompted Ian to learn first-aid and since then he hasn’t stopped attending incidents with both CFA and St John.
“I’ve always been busy, I see a need in some places and help if I can. I remember taking the kids to the Rockbank Lion Park – just as a civilian. You drove through the paddock where the lions were free-ranging. There were signs around saying, ‘on no account wind your windows down.’ Someone was mauled by a lion and I had to treat them. They’d wound their windows down.”
In his role as Captain of the Callignee brigade Ian has been instrumental not only in fighting the February 2009 fires but also in helping the community to recover and get prepared.
When their fire station was burnt down in 2009 Ian worked with the local community, CFA and local and state governments to put together not only a new fire station but an adjoining community complex for everyone to use.
The complex includes a crèche, large kitchen, meeting hall, storage space for the local play group, a cricket pavilion, changing facilities and a barbecue.
“Now we have this new space we’ve been able to invite our local Community Fireguard groups to attend brigade meetings, which is working really well. We structure some of our brigade training around issues relevant to them – it’s not uncommon to have 30 community members attend alongside 20 brigade members,” Ian said.
“We’re working to establish more Community Fireguard groups. We had three or four groups prior to the fires and there are now 10. It’s all about establishing networks, encouraging them to drop in on each other to make sure they’re ok – even just set up a telephone tree.”
Ian has also worked with the brigade to put together a local emergency handbook that covers fire and other hazards such as landslip, floods and even power lines over the road.
“We wanted to create something that would assist the community in the long term. We’ve hand delivered some 300 copies around the area and spoken with each householder individually to explain the book.”
“We’ve got plans to visit every house in the community and get to know all the residents. It’s good to know where the water supply is and make sure the firetruck can get in. We’ll offer advice on how they might improve their property and then refer them to the regional community safety staff if necessary.”
Outside his extensive CFA commitments Ian is also involved in the Callignee Town Hall committee, Central Gippsland Woody Weeds Action Group, continues to be involved with St John Ambulance when he can, and is even the local Chair of the Victorian Blackberry Taskforce.
“I have no plans to slow down. I get satisfaction in seeing results. Someone will come with an idea or see a need and, rather than waiting for someone else to do it, I assist in getting it done,” Ian said.
“It’s not about doing everything yourself, it’s about getting others involved. If that doesn’t work then I’ll take things along to a point where they can work with other people involved. A leader is only as good as the support they get.”
“I certainly couldn’t have done any of this without my good lady Sylvia. We have two children and she’s worked hard to look after them during the times I’ve been away gallivanting with St John and CFA.”